English Rugby Clubs Could Face European Isolation
English rugby clubs were "accused of holding direct talks with South African clubs and warned they could be cast adrift from future European competitions" following claims that Premiership Rugby’s new broadcasting deal with BT Vision was "illegal," according to Gavin Mairs of the London TELEGRAPH. The accusations were made by Jean-Pierre Lux, the chairman of European Rugby Cup Ltd., the governing body of the Heineken Cup. Premiership Rugby Monday night "denied it had held any formal talks with South Africa." However, Lux’s claims "will increase tensions ahead of the next ERC stakeholders’ meeting to resolve the fallout over Premiership Rugby’s decision to unilaterally sign a" £152M ($247M) deal with BT Vision. Lux said, "This is shocking because it is illegal. They opened talks directly with some South African and French clubs. This has hampered the negotiations. It is hard to talk with them. We may have to move on without the English, though I do not want that." A Premiership Rugby spokesperson refuted Lux’s claims and said, "No formal discussions have taken place with the South Africans." Lux’s threat that English clubs could be frozen out of future European competitions is likely to inflame the situation (TELEGRAPH, 9/24). In London, Robert Kitson reported that the "long-winded process of trying to find a resolution to European rugby's ongoing power struggle" will continue on Wednesday at a meeting of English stakeholders comprising senior figures from the Rugby Football Union, club owners and Premiership rugby representatives. RFU Chair Bill Beaumont has "already offered to mediate" between the clubs and European Rugby Cup organizers. However, the club owners "remain in bullish mood" and claim that their deal is "not just valid but financially beneficial for every European rugby nation." The union will also be interested to find out whether the French clubs are "standing firm alongside their English counterparts" (GUARDIAN, 9/25).